Articles from September, 2005

In Michigan, the tourism industry wins one

It took 20 years, but the tourism industry in Michigan finally overcame opposition from teachers unions and local school boards and got its after-Labor-Day start day for schools. The governor signed the requirement into law Thursday. Margaret Trimer-Hartley, spokeswoman for the Michigan Education Association, tells the Detroit Free Press that her union opposes the change because it promotes “a lousy culture of education” that makes tourism more important than schools. She says it erodes the control of school boards and will result in longer days that aren’t conducive to learning. Full story here. Further coverage here and here on what it all means.

Teachers will have more time to prepare for the school year ahead during the longer summer, but then less time for training opportunities during the school year. Most states that are big summer tourist destinations would benefit from such a move. More economic development is of course often good for schools. But is taking the decision away from local school districts the right move? Many districts there already start after the holiday. Now, they all will. Like it or not.

Erin Walsh|September 30th, 2005|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

School Board News is on the case

NSBA‘s newspaper provides two informative fast reads on two issues BoardBuzz has been referencing lately: The likelihood that the Supreme Court will yet again take up the issue of the Pledge of Allegiance, and all about the proposal for federally funded private school tuition vouchers offered to students displaced by recent hurricanes. The piece details legislation on the way aimed at the better approach, in NSBA’s view: Direct aid to school districts affected by the hurricane. Check it out.

Erin Walsh|September 30th, 2005|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Speak Up Day 2005

Start planning now to encourage your district to participate in this year’s NetDay Speak Up Day. This is a terrific opportunity for your district to collect information about how your students and teachers are using technology. By having students and teachers participate in this online survey, schools and districts get free access to aggregated data for their school, their district, as well as national summaries for comparison. Past participants have used the data to inform their technology planning, to open up dialogue about technology issues in their communities, and to assess professional development needs. At the same time, your district’s data helps bolster a nationwide effort to sharpen education policy at the state and national levels. Register your district today, then participate in the survey beginning October 21. Learn more here, including how to sign up for updates by joining the Speak Up Day News list.

And speaking of technology and learning, NSBA’s T+L² Conference is quickly approaching at the end of October. Highlights include a keynote by Neil Gershenfeld, director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms, nearly 200 district-led presentations and hands-on workshops, and more than 250 technology vendors.

Erin Walsh|September 29th, 2005|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Student board members rock

So says a new survey of state boards of education that explored the experiences of student board members and the adults who serve with them. The survey report, “Student Leadership in Education: An Analysis of the Student Voice on State Boards of Education,” included comments from students who feel that they make contributions that adults can’t. For example, students say, “We can present what is happening in the classroom,” “Policy affects students, we can let them know how a particular idea will impact the students,” and “I think student membership makes the board more accountable to the students.” Of course, many of them see the realities of public service: “The bureaucracy is frustrating,” “There are a huge range of issues, especially in urban schools,” and “Many, many people care about education.”

NSBA helped in collecting some data on student members of local school boards, and reported that Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Maryland all have local boards with student members. For details of the report, read the National Association of State Boards of Education’s news release.

Erin Walsh|September 28th, 2005|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

L.A. schools get help with arts ed

Eighty Los Angeles County school districts are benefitting from the county’s Arts for All initiative begun three years ago, offering assistance to school districts that commit to adding to their arts programs. Among the goals: Getting school boards to commit to spending 5 percent of their budgets on arts programs.

Sixteen districts have signed up. Individuals and companies in the entertainment industry chipped in to help participating districts pay for arts coordinators and some high-priority projects, reports the Los Angeles Times. The arts commission created a Web site that lists more than 175 programs that meet California arts curriculum standards that schools can use. What do you think about the 5 percent figure: Arbitrary? Too low? Too high? Click the comments button and let us know your thoughts.

Also in L.A.: Romer stays.

Erin Walsh|September 28th, 2005|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Hurricane resources on the Web for schools

Good site here from the Centers for Disease Control about health-related hurricane information for schools. It says “Katrina” but the info is applicable to the hurricane of your choice. The site provides a link to immunization guidance for schools hosting displaced students. CDC’s site for disaster mental health resources has important info as well.

And here is the U.S. Department of Education Hurricane Help for Schools site, which includes a link to the What Schools Need page, with each school in the affected areas having its own page to list specific needs.

Browsing through the list of schools and school districts reveals many tales. Galveston Independent School District in Texas reports that as of September 15, it was hunting for supplies to assist 440 students recently enrolled who were displaced as a result of Hurricane Katrina. This, of course, is before that entire city was emptied in advance of Hurricane Rita. That district and others also list needs such as clothing and personal care items. Plenty of high-ticket items such as computers and printers are needed by schools in flood-zone areas. The site lists e-mail addresses, U.S. mail addresses, and phone numbers for each school. Now is a great time to adopt one. And philanthropists of the world: Now is your moment to step up for schools.

Erin Walsh|September 27th, 2005|Categories: Crisis Management, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Hi ho Silver, to school!

Two students in Salt Lake City had enough of rising gas prices and decided to rein in a solution. Really. They saddled up their horses and rode the 15 miles to school, whereupon the students attended classes and the horses hung out in the stalls of the school’s animal lab. The girls noted that hay was much cheaper than gasoline, although they admitted that their alternate mode of transportation took them a lot longer. Alas, by the end of the week, administrators ruled that they could no longer ride their horses to school. And that’s straight from the horse’s mouth.

Erin Walsh|September 27th, 2005|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Cities, school boards, superintendents agree …

… that high-quality education improves community life and social cohesion, attracts and retains families, helps develop a skilled workforce, fosters economic growth, attracts new jobs, increases real estate values, and eliminates cellulite. Oh, sorry, BoardBuzz got carried away by a new survey of city officials, school board members, and superintendents who were amazingly in agreement on the power of education. They even agreed on challenges for schools: Lack of funding. Lots of good examples can be found in this Education Week commentary penned by the heads of the National League of Cities, the National School Boards Association, and the American Association of School Administrators.

Erin Walsh|September 26th, 2005|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Letting locals decide on junk food

The Arizona School Boards Association will likely oppose expanding to high schools nutrition standards written into law by that state’s legislature last year that ban junk food. “We were opposed to it last year and we will oppose it this year,” Janice Palmer, a lobbyist for the ASBA, tells the Arizona Capitol Times. “Regardless of the ages [of students] we’re talking about, it needs to be a local decision with community input.” That state’s House Minority Leader happens to be a school board member named Linda Lopez. She opposes expanding the nutrition standards as well.

Local authority is exactly what the school board in Arlington County, Va., exercised last week when it voted to eliminate sodas and sports drinks from that districts’ high school vending machines. The board approved guidelines that vending machines sell only beverages or snacks that meet certain federal nutrition standards. Read details in the Washington Post here.

NSBA believes that schools should offer healthy food and beverage items and engage parents and community members in the process of reducing childhood obesity. However, NSBA supports local school board discretion in determining whether to adopt such policies.

Britain recently decided to ban junk food at all state schools.

What do you think? Should states be legislating students’ Snickers candy bar access? Or is that the purview of local school boards? Let us know your thoughts by clicking that Comments button.

Erin Walsh|September 26th, 2005|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

HISD: Kids need to get back to school

“Every day kids are not in school is a lost academic opportunity,” Houston Independent School District spokesman Terry Abbott told the Houston Chronicle. “We’re hurting kids if they don’t get back to school.” The Texas Education Agency has set up a Web site to track hurricane-related school news such as school closings and openings. And Texas educators pitched in to evacuate affected communities. Read about it here.

And a sobering sentence in an AP article here on the tragic bus fire that resulted in the deaths of 23 who were fleeing Houston: “The company had contracts with schools to drive students to athletic events but made most of its money driving seniors to gambling spots such as Las Vegas … ” The piece details a bus company riding on the legal edge. School districts across America who hire charter transportation take note.

Erin Walsh|September 26th, 2005|Categories: Crisis Management, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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